IPL 2024 Eliminator: Red-hot RCB a worry for stuttering Rajasthan Royals | Crickit

IPL 2024 Eliminator: Red-hot RCB a worry for stuttering Rajasthan Royals

By, Mumbai
May 21, 2024 07:21 PM IST

The form of the Virat Kohli-inspired side looks a tough obstacle for Rajasthan Royals in the IPL Eliminator.

The pressure will be on Rajasthan Royals (RR) as they run into a Royal Challengers Bengaluru (RCB) in red-hot form at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Thursday’s Eliminator between the sides that finished third and fourth in the IPL league table.

Yuzvendra Chahal vs Virat Kohli promises to be a fascinating contest(AFP)
Yuzvendra Chahal vs Virat Kohli promises to be a fascinating contest(AFP)

Though RCB scraped through to the play-offs, pipping Chennai Super Kings (CSK) to the fourth spot on net run rate in the league table, they hold the edge over RR. No team would want to face RCB in this kind of momentum, after a dream run of six successive wins. Their body language was there to see in Saturday’s win over CSK at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium. They were so aggressive, it seemed to intimidate even a seasoned side like Chennai.

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Royals, on the other hand, come into the Eliminator after suffering four straight losses followed by the last game being washed out. The Jaipur side’s drop in form is puzzling because they were the early pace-setters with eight wins in their first nine games.

The man RR will be most wary of facing in the knockout game is Virat Kohli. In the high profile T20 league, the competition is so tight that rarely does one player make a big difference to a team’s fortunes. But Kohli has that rare ability to lift his side by his sheer presence. He has managed to do it this season. Batting and fielding like a man possessed, he has acted as the catalyst for RCB’s resurgence.

Though he was as consistent as ever from the start to be at the top of the run chart, there were questions raised about his ability to score quickly after the fielding restrictions were lifted. He has improved that aspect of his game too. The Orange Cap holder’s 708 runs have come at his best-ever strike rate of 155.60.

Finishing fourth in the play-off race is not fanciful, but for RCB it stands among their proudest achievements. Dead and buried after losing seven of their first eight games, they were written off even by loyal supporters.

Kohli didn’t give up though. Another example of his ability to lift his team was seen during his innings in the do-or-die final league game against CSK. In tough conditions, he hit 47 (29 b, 4x6) to lay the platform for the innings. His six that hit the stadium roof, off pacer Tushar Deshpande off the first ball of the third over, was a statement of his mindset - looking to dominate, targetting the opposition’s key player, delivering a blow to his confidence. So sure for most of the season, Deshpande had a tough game, conceding 49 runs. It all started with that Kohli hit, after Deshpande gave only two runs in his first over.

Scoring faster than he has in any IPL season, Kohli hit three fifties in the six-match winning streak. Ominously for RR, the last time Kohli played in Ahmedabad, he smashed 70* off 44 balls to help RCB chase down Gujarat Titans’ total of 200/3 in 16 overs. The others too have rallied around Kohli – captain and opening partner Faf du Plessis, Rajat Patidar, Cameron Green and finishers Dinesh Karthik and Glenn Maxwell all go into the game with runs under their belt.

The concern for RR is a weak-looking batting line-up, more so in the absence of opener Jos Buttler (back in England for national duty), who had a hand in quite a few early-season wins. Opener Yashasvi Jaiswal has not always fired, which has put extra load on the in-form Riyan Parag, and he is feeling the pressure. Though he is scoring runs, the early season domination is missing. Dhruv Jurel has also not delivered anything big. Finisher Shimron Hetmyer has not got many chances to bat, and in the games he did, could not fire. That is, barring the game against Punjab Kings.

In bowling though, RR have the most experienced line-up - Yuzvendra Chahal, R Ashwin and Trent Boult. RCB’s Mohammed Siraj, Yash Dayal, Lockie Ferguson and all-rounder Glenn Maxwell will take confidence from successfully defending their total against CSK.

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